Across all cultures in the Northern hemisphere, the winter solstice was celebrated long before christian teachings, and a lot of our rituals and symbols are pagan in origin e.g having a tree, mistletoe. Ultimately, it was a time to promote peace and spend time with your family. In modernity, essentially, nothing has changed; this is a time of year about celebrating each other.
Every family has their own traditions at this time and each ritual is as valuable and personal to them and their children as it is to others. For those who would like to celebrate an alternative Christmas this year, please read some of these popular alternatives:
During the period of December schools are closed, work grinds to a halt and everyone takes a break. The 25th is the biggest day of the year for family gatherings and is celebrated with a meal by lots of countries around the world. In Spain, Santa Claus is low key and the 25th is the day for a large family dinner. In Scandinavia, people celebrate a big dinner on the 24th and a smaller meal on the 25th.
If you would like to plan an alternative but don’t want to miss out on dinner with your loved ones, try something different. Planning an alternative meal at home or why not splash out in the many hotels that are now open and serving dinner Christmas day around Ireland.
Easier said than done, especially with older kids. In this holiday season if you wish not to engage with the consumerism of the shopping holiday an alternative is to make and create your own style gifts. Small kids can enjoy making crafts and can bake treats at home to give to friends. Check out buynothingchristmas.org for more ideas on what to make and do instead of spending money on presents, and see our baking section for more ideas.
The history of Santa Claus came from the christian celebration of ‘St Nicholas feast day’ where a tradition developed that children would leave food out for him ‘to visit’ on the eve of the day (25th of December). The rise of Protestantism in Europe saw St Nicholas day change to the Dutch version ‘Sinter Klass', which eventually developed into ‘Santa Claus’ in the USA. Our modern take on ‘Santa’ has come mostly from American influence but many countries play down this role or simple don't celebrate ‘Santa’ at all. If you choose not to celebrate ‘Santa’ in your home, you are not alone!
What’s called a ‘Christmas Tree’ today began as a pagan tree, and was decorated with candles, nuts, fruits, etc. Because of its pagan origins, early christians actually banned both Christmas trees and evergreen decorations. Whatever way you interpret it, having a tree now means having presents under it Christmas Day morning for the kids.
If you would like to celebrate with a tree, why not get a potted tree or plant instead and decorate it with homemade decorations that you can make with the kids.
A great way to celebrate this time of year is to help the needy. Kids and parents can both help in a number of ways that are both fun and a great way for kids to understand about those who need help. There are lots of charities in Ireland and abroad that need donations and help with fundraising. Choose your local cause and get the kids involved.